Thursday, June 16, 2011

A remarkable outpouring of the Holy Spirit.... and an imaginative university mission

As someone involved in helping to equip students to bring the good news about Jesus to students I find Michael Green's observations in Compelled by Joy helpful. (£5.84 from book depository):

Photo from the IFESWORLD stream is an account of one of the most imaginative missions held in a British university in 2010. It began with a remarkable outpouring of the Holy Spirit at a house party in the vacation before the mission, where students really 'fell in love with Jesus'. This was crucial, and led to fervent prayer among them before the mission, continuing into a 24-7 prayer throughout the mission itself. The chief student leader gathered around himself people with a big vision of for the university, clever networkers and students with wide circles of non-Christian friends. The outcome was highly creative. For one thing, they opted for a lot of decentralised events which really made the week come alive.
There was no single 'big name' evangelist, but the diverse gifts of the assistants were used to the full. They went into the houses of the students and spoke at dinner parties, tea parties, events where Christians were grilled by all comers, film evenings, pudding parties and so forth. At these parties the host explained that there would be a five minute talk after the meal, followed by discussion and coffee - often far into the night. The main missioner acted more as an encourager and father figure to the team than as the single oracle, in striking contrast to how things are often done...  students took initiative in inviting friends, because of the trust and freedom given them.
Naturally they had the normal lunch and major evening events as well. But daily they ran a lot of street questionnaires... the assistant missioners had plenty to do during the day, and by taking students with them they developed the timid and boosted the confidence of younger Christians. They organised whitewash teams which went to clean grubby student kitchens and bathrooms, serving the community by showing the love of Christ in a practical way. The visiting team lived among students, which was very important for establishing relationships, many of which bore fruit in conversations as the week progressed.
Needless to say, after a mission of this quality they had many takers for the follow-0up course which began the next week. There is no one ideal way of running missions... the vital elements are prayer, a winsome and fearless presentation of the faith, massive student enthusiasm and involvement and, as always in student work, food! Much depends on careful preparation beforehand, and on the equally careful follow-up of the two classes of people who leave their names: those who have decided for Christ and those who are interested but not persuaded. But in today's climate, the annual mission remains a powerful tool for university outreach.
Important lessons for us from Michael Green's story here? Students to be full of the Spirit moved to pray and innovate and make Jesus known - I'm not convinced evangelism is my first gift (though I love being involved on the front line) but I really love to be used to hold Christ up to his people that they might be filled again with the Spirit, moved to prayer, to boldness, to creativity - even to administration and strategic planning... in all kinds of ways so that all kinds of people might come to know Jesus.

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